ABSTRACT

Katharine Lee Bates, most famous as the author of America the Beautiful, was also a field-changing scholar of American literature whose early training was as a medievalist. To a widely ignored early-twentieth-century children's edition of Chaucer (The Story of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims, 1909), she brought both her originality and democratic instincts as a scholar and her considerable talents as a poet. This edition deserves close inspection as both a skillful popularization and a strategic intervention in the history of Chaucer scholarship and translation. It was unusual for its time in rendering Chaucer in verse rather than prose, in representing the best contemporary scholarship about the Middle Ages, and in stressing the novelistic aspects of the Canterbury Tales, as well as in the liberties it took with the original, laying an American claim to Chaucer. It thus reflected the middle way that Bates took in much of her writing between traditionalism and innovation.

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